Commentary
5:00 am
Mon December 30, 2013

Four Books For The New Year

With a new year upon us, this is when many of us stop to perform mental audits of our lives. I can’t help you in the gym, but I can offer you these 90 seconds of self-improvement reading in the areas of art, history and literature.

The folks who gave us the coffee-table book The Louvre: All the Paintings have accomplished the same feat with The Vatican. The slip-cased volume contains every Old Master painting on display in the Vatican, as well as hundreds of additional masterpieces and treasures in the papal collection, featuring 976 works of art in all.

The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects by Richard Kurin tells the history of the United States through treasures from the Museum’s collections. Millions of possibilities were honed to this small collection that tells our story. From Woody Guthrie to fallout shelters to Dorothy’s red slippers, this volume provides amazing insight into American history.

In A Little History of Literature, John Sutherland not only introduces the reader to the great classics, but also Greek myths and graphic novels. His little essays touch on themes of censorship, self-publishing, book awards, reading groups, madness and eBooks. There are 40 essays, all shorter than 10 pages. Read one a week and you’ll have Literature covered by mid-October.

Or, you can delve into The Cool School: Writing from America’s Hip Underground by Glenn O’Brien, who claims: “It’s not really an anthology as much as a sampler… a possible textbook for Outlier Lit 101.” It features bios and excerpts from 57 hipsters, including Terry Southern, Joyce Johnson, William S. Burroughs and Ishmael Reed.

Happy reading, Happy New Year, and all that rot.